I think that World of Warcraft is the most pointless game ever created. I've seen TV shows and read articles about people who lose their jobs, their spouses and their lives playing WoW, all for something at which they cannot possibly succeed - ever.
But despite this introduction, the "plague" I referenced in the title isn't a clever way of saying that WoW players should get a life - it's about an honest to God plague that players experianced within the context of the game. While reading DarkKnight109's list of Top Ten Iconic Glitches over at the oft-dreaded Gamefaqs, I learned about a virtual virus that spread just like a real disease would, and how the savvy players used the glitch to their advantage.
"The so-called WoW plague was a glitch that was introduced into World of Warcraft during one of the game's early patches. The patch opened up a new dungeon called "Zul'Gurub", the capital of the jungle troll tribes. The boss of this dungeon was one Hakkar the Soulflayer, the physical incarnation one of the trolls' gods. and one of his attacks inflicted a deadly debuff, known as Corrupted blood, on the players attacking him. The disease was highly contagious and would spread even further to anyone close an infected character, dealing several hundred points of damage to the character every few seconds. The disease eventually went away on its own (or whenever the infected character died). However, due to a programming error, pets could also be infected with the disease, but if dismissed soon after the infection, they could retain the disease and carry it out of the dungeon and into the world beyond. It was a seemingly innocuous oversight, but one that had dire ramifications.
"Hunters with infected pets would summon the creatures (unwittingly or knowingly) once they were back in populated cities and the disease would soon spread to any character close to the pet. NPCs could be infected by the disease (and spread it to players), but were immune to its effects, which effectively turned them into contagion vectors. Though high-level characters with lots of health could feasibly survive an infection, low level characters were not so lucky and were often killed outright. As a practical joke, characters with infected pets would often venture into the middle of crowded cities, then summon their pets, and watch in amusement as hundreds of characters collapsed in an ever-expanding wave as the disease leapt from player to player. More savvy-minded players used their pets as weapons, taking them into PvP zones and charging them into enemy groups, turning them into ad-hoc bioweapons.
|"Bring out your dead!"|
"This was arguably the most fascinating glitch ever conceived in a video game for a number of reasons. First of all, the glitch could be more accurately described as a virus (virus being a more literal term here than usual), since it spreads from user to user, and it is one of the only known viruses that had no malicious intent behind its creation. Secondly, its method of transfer and infection closely mirrored that of a real-life epidemic: a few individuals would become infected in a remote area, then they would travel into denser populations wherin the disease multiplied rapidly and infected a large number of hosts, creating more vectors and ultimately killing off the population. The fact that pets were immune to the disease (when not summoned) but could still be infected by it and that they travelled frequently with humans made them textbook virus "carriers", fulfilling the exact same role such creatures do in real life. Cities became charnel houses and players soon learned to avoid any places where people gathered in large numbers, as these were prime targets for the virus. Those who stayed on the outskirts of WoW civilization were largely unaffected by the pandemic. Finally, the disease's properties - high infection rate, immediate debilitation, and high mortality rate - made it an ideal bio-weapon and, unsurprisingly, that's exactly what players started using it for. Blizzard began to quarantine cities in an attempt to halt the spread of the illness, but the plague was only truly stopped when the servers were reset and the glitch allowing the disease to travel outside of Zul'Gurub was fixed.
"The WoW plague actually made headlines in a few newspapers, an unprecedented feat for a video game glitch. It briefly fascinated programmers and behaviourists the world over. It even attracted the attention of both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who wanted to use the virus as a model to study people's reactions to a sudden disease outbreak, and the Center of Terrorism and Intelligence Studies, who observed the tendency for some players to wilfully infect new population centres as a way of studying terrorist behaviours, making it one of the most culturally relevant glitches ever."
Forgive me if this is common knowledge by now, but reading about the plague is officaly the most fun I'll ever have with an MMORPG.